The Power of Vulnerability


The Power of Vulnerability

One of the things that has struck me over 71 episodes of Fearless is the openness with which so many of the guests have answered my questions. 

I think this says a lot about how they lead and why they are so successful. Because, this kind of openness is rare.

It’s rare because leadership is an enigma. Counter-intuitive and contradictory.

The classic story of leadership is told in simple and old fashioned terms. 

We want strong, confident leaders who understand our needs and make our worlds better. 

We want visionaries who see possibilities that are beyond our own horizons. 

We want evangelists, capable of bringing us to that promised land.

We want inspirational figures. Helping us to achieve things we never imagined possible.

We want charismatic personalities, turning opponents into allies with a word and a smile.  

We want courageous leaders, willing to defend us against enemies both real and perceived. 

All of these are part of the job description. An implicit check list against which we measure anyone presenting themselves as a candidate for our endorsement and commitment, whether in the voting booth or our place of employment.

But it is a checklist that is missing one attribute that is essential to unlocking creative thinking in a business environment. 

Vulnerability. That willingness to leave room for others, secure in the knowledge that celebrating another person’s talents does not diminish yours. 

Most leaders operate from the belief that power is a zero-sum game. Give it away and it will be taken by someone else, never to return.

But, creativity is a different kind of power. The power to make people see and feel and act differently. The power to change the world. And unlocking it requires giving away control. Not accountability. But control.

Because the best leaders know that creativity comes from everywhere and everyone.

Jonathan Mildenhall said this on ‘Fearless.’ 

“What I believe is that everybody is creative. I fundamentally believe that, and I feel that as a leader of a company, it is your job to create the environment that everybody's way of expressing their creativity is welcomed. I think that it becomes too brutal a debate when people believe that creativity is the remit of a few people in an organization, and not the responsibility of everybody in an organization.” 

Welcoming the input of others is usually seen as an act of generosity. That’s true. But it’s too limited a definition. Generosity is an act with time limits. I can be generous today and not tomorrow. I can appear generous without revealing what’s in my heart.

What is much more important is that it is also an act of vulnerability. 

And when you see it through that lens, it opens up whole new horizons.

Vulnerability is a truth. It leaves a lasting mark. It draws people to you. And that is the first requirement of leadership.

What’s also true is that vulnerability is a risk. But then so is creativity. 

Come to think of it, so is life. 

And none of them are a zero sum game.

What are you prepared to risk?